Copyright 'piracy' measure published


Legislation which the Government says is aimed at changing copyright law to “balance the rights of copyright holders and individual internet users” has been published today.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock released the text of the statutory instrument which will, once signed, allow copyright holders seek injunctions against those they believe to be infringing their copyright.

Those opposing the measure, including lawyers who have established an online petition to protest against it, believe a ministerial order is a sweeping and inappropriate means of introducing such legislative change.

They have called for a full Dáil debate on the matter. The number of signatures on the Stop Sopa Ireland petition established by law lecturer TJ McIntyre and solicitor Simon McGarr and others had reached well over 49,000 by this evening.

In a briefing note, the Minister said concerns that his proposal mirrored the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the US were “not based on fact”.

The purpose of the statutory instrument was “simply to provide explicitly” that injunctions may be sought, as obligated by two EU directives.

He said such injunctions were available in all other member states of the union, by virtue of those directives, and since that time the internet had flourished.

“Europe is quite unlike the United States. In granting any injunctions an Irish court must take account of Court of Justice of the European Union judgements. The court must consider the rights of any person (including businesses) likely to be affected,” Mr Sherlock said.

He said he was particularly conscious of “the importance of online content and digital businesses in the Irish context”.

Speaking in the Dáil when the issue was raised by deputies Catherine Murphy (Ind) and Derek Keating (FG) today, the Minister said he was “not averse” to primary legislation.

But he insisted the statutory instrument would be signed “imminently”.

Ms Murphy expressed concern about the “vagueness” of the measure and said it would be left entirely up to the courts to establish the grounds for which an injunction might be granted.

Mr Sherlock said this was “absolutely not” Sopa legislation. It was a “restatement” of what the Government had held to be the case anyway in relation to copyright, prior to a High Court judgment last year which held Ireland was not in compliance with an EU directive.

He said the “central point” was that internet service providers, users and the copyright holders needed to come together as stakeholders to discuss the issue.

Mr McGarr and Mr McIntyre were at Leinster House today to lobby TDs and Senators.

Speaking after the statutory instrument was published today, Mr McGarr said it was “not functionally different” from the Minister’s original draft order.

“The Minister has not been listening to the constructive criticisms and legitimate concerns of those opposing this measure,” he said.

Separately, Ireland will today sign up to the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) along with other EU members, at a ceremony in Tokyo, Japan.

While the agreement’s primary objective is to stop trade in counterfeit goods including internet bought medicines, it also includes provisions regarding copyright infringement.

This latter provision has caused controversy, with critics maintaining that the agreement will impact on the civil and digital rights of internet users.